Ichikawa Yaozō II as Hachiōmaru Aratora and Segawa Kikunojō III as Aigo no Waka

Color woodblock print: hosoban, 12⅞ x 6 in. (32.7 x 15.2 cm); 1774, Signed: Shunshō ga

Signed: Shunshō ga

Published: Narazaki, Muneshige, et al. 1976. Shunshō. Vol. 3, Ukiyo-e taikei (Encyclopedia of Ukiyo-e). Tokyo: Shūeisha, pl. 26

Shibaraku (Stop right there!) scenes entered the Kabuki repertoire at the end of the seventeenth century. This scene portrays the ultimate confrontation between good and evil and was named after the shout that preceded the super-hero’s entrance on the hanamichi—literally the “flower path,” a raised passage that joined the stage on the audience’s left and passed through the auditorium. In oversize persimmon-colored robes emblazoned with his crest, his face painted in red kumadori makeup to represent his hot-blooded but essentially good character, and with his giant sword in hand, the hero would declaim and posture as he advanced slowly toward the stage, where he would halt whatever crime was being committed. A favorite with the audience, these larger-than-life figures became stock roles for Ichikawa-lineage actors and allowed them to showcase the aragoto (rough-housing) theatrical style for which the Edo Kabuki stage became famous. First performed by Danjūrō I (1660–1704) in 1697, by the eighteenth century, playwrights had introduced all kinds of variations on the theme, and the scene had become obligatory during the opening-of-the-season (kaomise) productions that each theater held in the eleventh month of the year.          

Ichikawa Yaozō II (1735–1777) appears here as Hachiōmaru Aratora, the Shibaraku role of the play Chigo-zakura jūsangane, written by Horikoshi Nisōji I (1721–1781) and as performed for the first time at the Ichimura Theater in 11/1774. A disciple of Ichikawa Danjūrō IV (1711–1778), Yaozō was one the leading Edo actors of his generation, especially famous for his talents as a tachiyaku (leading man) in both aragoto and wagoto (romantic lead) roles. He was so popular among female theater fans that the water he immersed himself in playing Sukeroku was later sold to them to be reused as bathwater, because of its so-called “special properties.”1

Shunshō portrays him here in confrontation with Segawa Kikunojō III (1751–1810) in the role of Aigowaka, the latter costumed in court robes decorated with chrysanthemums (kiku) in keeping with his name. Kikunojō was making his debut under this name, and later became one of the most successful onnagata (female role players) of the later eighteenth century. He had been promoted to his name Kikunojō III the previous month.

  1. Leiter, Samuel L. 1997. New Kabuki Encyclopedia: A Revised Adaptation of Kabuki Jiten. (Westport, CT, London: Greenwood Press), p. 200.
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